Brendan W. Clark ’21
According to the United States Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Trinity College will receive $1,376,444 under section 18004(a)(1) of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students. A minimum $688,222 of that total must be allocated as a grant for emergency financial aid for students.
These funds will be made available to Trinity immediately through the Title IV G5 system after the Department of Education receives the College’s Certificate of Funding Agreement.
The CARES Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Mar. 27, contains a variety of provisions designed to provide financial relief to individual taxpayers, corporations, small businesses, and institutions of higher education, among others. The CARES Act allocates roughly $14 billion for state and private education, with $12.56 billion of that constituting the “Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund,” allocated based on a formula based on student enrollment.
The Act requires that 50% of the total allocation be dedicated to emergency financial aid grants to students. The remaining 50% can be allocated for students at the discretion of the institution and their own financial plan.
In a letter to colleges and universities on Apr. 9, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated that each institution “may develop its own system and process for determining how to allocate these funds, which may include distributing the funds to all students or only to students who demonstrate significant need.” The only statutory requirement, DeVos indicated, is that the funds “be used to cover expenses related to the disruption of the campus operations due to the coronavirus.”
$2.95 billion under the Act is allocated to the Governors’ Education Relief Fund. A further $992 million is available for “additional minority serving institutions” and a remaining $331 million is available for “supplementary emergency funding” and can be awarded for institutional use, according to the Department’s FAQs. DeVos indicated in her letter that the Department of Education will “provide details on how institutions may apply for this institutional funding, as well as for other emergency funding, in the coming days.”
Other NESCAC institutions received similar grants, as the funding formula is dependent on enrollment. Colby received $1,244,996, Connecticut College received $1,202,711, Williams received $1,564,588, and Wesleyan received $2,257,086. Tufts, which has the highest enrollment in the NESCAC, received $4,765,237.
The Tripod previously reported that Trinity was expecting an increase of 20%-25% in financial aid requests for the next year. The possible gap in funding for financial aid, according to Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Angel Perez, would be “$10-$15 million needed to support incoming students.”
President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney indicated earlier today that the College was projecting a “significant (multimillion dollar) deficit” for FY 2020, which is “estimated at more than $7 million.” Trinity intends to use its “limited cash reserves to fill that gap,” according to Berger-Sweeney.
The President referenced the CARES Act in her email, though did not specify the amount or its intended use at Trinity.
Higher education leaders have sought greater allocations as a result of the crisis in recent days. The New York Times reported that the deal also allows “borrowers to defer their federal student loan payments for six months, without penalty and without added interest costs.” The $14 billion for higher education and the Governor’s Education Relief Fund is part of a larger $30.75 billion national education stabilization fund.
The Tripod reached out to Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas and Perez, neither of whom was immediately available for comment.